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Herbs & Botanicals

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Astragalus (huang qi)

What is astragalus?

Astragalus is an herb native to northern China. While more than 2,000 varieties of astragalus exist worldwide, the Chinese version is the type that has been tested most extensively.

Why do we need astragalus? What is it used for?

Astragalus contains numerous compounds, including flavonoids, polysaccharides, amino acids and trace minerals. Traditionally, it was used in China for conditions such as night sweats, diarrhea, and qi deficiency.

Preliminary studies conducted in Asia have determined that astragalus can enhance immune function and lengthen the lives of people with cancer. Other studies suggest that it may prevent some infections in people undergoing dialysis for kidney failure.

How much astragalus should I take?

Some textbooks recommend taking between 9-15 grams of astragalus in a decoction, which is made by boiling astragalus root in water for a few minutes, then brewing the tea. Other providers recommend between 1,000-1,500 milligrams of astraglus in capsule form, or 3-5 millileters of an astragalus tincture taken three times per day.

What forms of astragalus are available?

Astragalus root is most commonly available in its raw form. Many stores sell astragalus supplements, which are available in capsules or powders. Other stores sell astragalus tinctures.

What can happen if I take too much astragalus? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

At present, there are no known side-effects when astragalus is used as recommended. There are no well-known drug interactions with astragalus.

References

  • Foster S, Yue CX. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992, pp. 27-33.
  • Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996, pp. 50—3.
  • Li SQ, Yuan RX, Gao H. Clinical observation on the treatment of ischemic heart disease with astragalus membranaceus. Chung Kuo Chung His I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1995;15:77—80 [in Chinese].
  • Shu HY. Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide. Palos Verdes, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Press, 1986, pp. 521—3.
  • Tang W, Eisenbrand G. Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin. Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1992.

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